Child development pressures

A new study into preschool activity has revealed that parents face rising pressures related to the growth and speed of development of their child.

More than a third admitted they felt under pressure for their child to walk quickly, according to the study from activity class franchise, Toddler Sense.

A further 20 per cent of parents said they had faced negative comments and criticism from their own family members in the ‘race’ for their child to become fully mobile.

Some experts believe that influences such as celebrities, social media and reality TV can place unrealistic expectations on the speed of childhood development and can lead to anxieties around what is deemed ‘normal’ at any given age, which could impact parental wellbeing.

Two fifths of parents believe that their mental health has negatively affected their parenting at some stage. A number of parents surveyed said they felt their child learned to walk late and as a result worried when people commented.

Dr Lin Day, child development expert and founder of Toddler Sense explains: “Important milestones such as taking first steps causes a lot of undue worry for new parents and added pressure from family, friends and social media, to get their child to walk before they’re developmentally ready.

“The normal age range for walking is very broad. Some babies walk as early as eight months and others as late as two years. Premature babies generally walk later than full term babies of the same age. The skill is usually achieved at the age they would have been, had they been born at term, and sometimes later. While some babies simply have their own timetable, which cannot be rushed.”

While other research suggests 20 per cent of new parents worry about their baby’s health every hour. This survey also revealed that 33 per cent of parents worried about their baby’s physical development, including their balance and ability to stand up independently.

Dr Day added: “Although it is perfectly natural for parents to want their child to walk early, research from the Northern Illinois University’s Department of Education also shows that if pressure is too strong, the child may suffer from low self-esteem and emotional instability, which can affect the ability to learn and grow.

“Rather than pressurising toddlers to reach milestones too soon, we should be encouraging them to learn as much as possible about the outside world, to get more sleep, exercise, fresh air and sunshine.”

Toddler Sense has launched Toddler Travellers, a new range of nationwide classes designed to support parents in the often, unsettling interim development period between baby and toddlerhood.

Sessions offer practical, social and emotional parenting support on all aspects of a child’s learning and development during a one hour session that provides opportunities for parents and children to interact together in an adventure play area.

Activities include playing musical instruments, singing, dancing and rhyming to support speech development and language skills as well as achievable, practical games that parents and children can enjoy together to build confidence.